The Raid (Serbuan maut, 2012)
May 16, 2012 1 Comment
Ignoring the protests of his pregnant wife, Rama (Iko Uwais) rises at the break of dawn to carry out his prayers and complete his morning routine. With a promise to his stoic father that he will “bring him home”, Rama joins the rest of his team of elite cops in anticipation of a no-holds-barred assault on a formidable fortress housing a druglord (Ray Sahetapy) and his own personal militia. With the element of surprise proving short-lived, the force – lead by Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim) – find themselves in the unenviable situation of having to break themselves out again, providing they can first get past right hand men Andi (Donny Alamsyah) and the aptly named Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian).
Have you ever been so caught up in a single set-piece that you wished it could have lasted the whole film? Indonesia-based Welshman Gareth Evans sure has, with his new film, The Raid, prompting such critical hyperbole as “You have never seen anything this awesome” and “The best action movie in decades!” Combining Battle Royale‘s Gladiatorial disregard for human life with Ong Bak‘s penchant for spectacular stunt work, Evans appears to have created the ultimate action movie, one that bypasses the usual exposition and characterisation, and goes straight for the nearest weapon instead.
Despite the obvious hype propagated by a studio trying desperately to draw in subtitle-wary crowds with every five star review they can get their hands on, it’s difficult to argue with much of what’s been said, quoted and plastered onto the nation’s buses for all to see. The Raid truly is impressive, Evans somehow managing to propel his (admittedly minimal) narrative with sheer brute force alone. The film is paced to perfection, the unending violence carefully structured so that it just about avoids repeating itself, the little-known Silat brand of martial arts dazzling in its power and precision.
But is showmanship enough? For the first hour or so the answer seems to be yes, as blood starts to flow and fists proceed to fly. There’s only so long that such momentum can be maintained, however (with even The Avengers struggling to hold support its prolonged final fight), before exhaustion sets in. Detached, desensitised and disorientated, it is difficult to remain engaged as what’s left of our outnumbered SWAT team regroup for yet another twenty-minute assault – particularly when there is such a dearth of personality, rendering both heroes and villains a homogeneous blur of torn fatigues and stained vests.
We are rooting for Iko Uwais Rama because he’s cool, his skills impressive, rather than as a direct result of any astute characterisation. At times it’s almost like watching a video game, only one in which you are not in direct control. What starts out as a fun exercise in button mashing eventually starts haemorrhaging interest as you become aware of just how little is at stake. In the event that Rama or any of his colleagues should die, it would be more a mild inconvenience than a loss of any real consequence. It doesn’t help that the antagonist is so unforgivably weak, a villain for villainy’s sake with little or no connection to our equally impersonal protagonist.
The Raid, then, is a genuinely spectacular showcase of Silat martial arts, Uwais’ superlative stunt work making Tony Jaa look like Jigglypuff. Ultimately, however, while Evans does his best to pad out what could really have been just a single set-piece, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that you’re missing out on half of a movie. That said, one thing’s for sure: The Expendables are now a man short.